Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Master is the Gayest Movie You'll See All Year

Just warning you, this is written assuming those who read it have seen the film already, so I'm giving a lot away, don't like it? Don't give a shit. I had this overwhelming sense of dread while walking into the theater, you know the kind you get from knowing you're walking into an over-hyped art-for-art-sake long-as-shit-for-no-reason film that all the snooty critics can't stop buzzing about? Remember when we paid money to see Tree of Life (2011)? It was that kind of dread.
Paul Thomas Anderson has always been a hit or miss kind of director to me, and this was definitely a miss. The only thing I could find to justify this clumsy misfire, is to look at the homoerotic angle in the film, which to me was very prevalent, but everything is gay to me. Anyway, it's an interesting angle to think about and has been mentioned in quite a few reviews on the film, and anyone with more than two braincells clicking away upstairs is sure to catch it.
I kept thinking about what Gore Vidal said to William Wyler while in pre-production for Ben-Hur (1959). He was disconcerted writing the script as he basically deduced that there wasn't enough in the plot to make it a 2 and a half hour long movie; A Jew and a Roman used to be friends, now they disagree on politics and fight. That's barely interesting as far as he was concerned so he suggested that the two main characters played by Charleton Heston (Ben-Hur) and Stephen Boyd (Messala) were lovers, and the conflict between the two of them was actually because Messala wanted to start the relationship back on and Ben-Hur wasn't interested. Throwing sex into the mix always makes it more interesting. And hey, it ended up working didn't it?
Here's the dirt on The Master (2012). Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a plethora of mental disorders. He's bipolar, manic, borderline, and he's an alcoholic and a sex addict. H has PTSD, ADHD, OCD, so basically he's beseeched by acronyms. Ergo, he's brilliant fodder for 'The Cause', the Scientology-esque movement sprung from the mind of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who takes an instant liking to him, and takes him under his wing. 
Lancaster Dodd (PSH) posing in a picture Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) takes of him. it's one of the most intimate parts in the whole movie as Freddie gently adjusts Dodd's hair with the tip of his fingers and the two men stare deeply into each other's eyes and then it's back to business.
As the relationship develops between the two of them, we learn their most depraved secrets, particularly those of Freddie, who is a much more developed, nuanced character than that of Dodd. It seems as though every woman in his life has abandoned him from his mother to his child-bride, and now he unsuccessfully strives to find wholeness in empty marathon fuckfests that always end up being his undoing. Dodd, sensing his self-destructive nature makes Freddie engage in a series of depracating and humiliating tasks or 'tests' based on the teachings of 'The Cause', and in the emotional climax of one in particular Freddie exclaims 'I can leave anytime I want to but I choose to stay!' and the entire audience is left wondering; 'um, why exactly?' PT Anderson never actually reveals the answer. This is a director who's fear of not being subtle enough yields the exact opposite, it's too subtle to the point of being confusing. To me, the answer was very clear - he stays because he's in love with Dodd. It's an intense, adult kind of love and affection that of which he had never achieved in the past, and he allows it to consume him.
In turn, in the last scene (I told you, if you haven't seen it, don't read this) when Dodd invites Freddy to England (or perhaps he doesn't and Freddie dreams the invitation, that's never made clear either) he sings to him; 'I'd like to get you on a slow boat to China...all to myself alone' the rest of the lyrics go something like 'get you and keep you in my arms evermore', basically spelling out to Freddie that he loves him too. Both men cry because they are aware that whatever it is they had is over forever despite their best efforts. 
Amy Adams plays the almsot terrifyingly controlling wife of Dodd who always seems to have something to say or do against Freddie, and almost always has an strong opinion to assert.
Also, from the beginning, there is a wedge driven between the two by Dodd's wife, Peggy (Amy Adams). She makes her presence in Dodd's life, particularly his sexual life perfectly clear when she for lack of better terms, jacks him off, whilst telling him how bad Freddy is for The Cause, asserting her sexual prowess over him. She increasingly becomes more and more hostile towards Freddie as she feels her influence over Dodd dwindling and becomes threatened and resentful by his position in their life together. And the entire time you're watching her you're wondering why exactly is she such a shrewish bitch, and it's because she's jealous of the love those two men share for each other. It's actually pretty simple. 
So basically, what I'm saying is The Master is not an exposé on Scientology, nor is it a character study, nor is it a mental-masturbation all over the audiences face in 72 mm, though that was my initial opinion of the film. It's a love story between two broken society outcasts looking in desperate confusion for answers and solutions to their ever present loneliness. In that sense it's rather beautiful, but then again, I'm not sure at all if that was PT Anderson's intention all along. I'd like to think so because that's the only redeeming quality the film has. 

Below is the ridiculous 3 minute trailer that basically shows you the entire film and saves you $12.50 

 Below, that Gore Vidal thing I was talking about - 


1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Vera. Interesting, compelling, and very original in where it goes with it’s story, how it does, and how it eventually plays itself out. Amazing performances from Phoenix and Hoffman who I think are actually Oscar-worthy ones.